As a proud resident of the (now clearly superior) West, I am ashamed that I allowed
Tharman Taman Jurong to elude my list of frequented lunch spots, slinked in a tiny nook of Jurong West as it is. Taman Jurong Market & Food Centre is renowned for dastardly good hawker food, something few outsiders are privy to.
The first floor might have you dismissing it as a run-of-the-mill market but the hawker centre pulls in a stupendous crowd at peak eating hours on both its second and third floors. Among the more popular stalls is B.B.Q Seafood, lauded for excellent barbecued fish and stingray.
I silently thanked the stall for at least using English on their banner as most of the Chinese characters were just about unrecognisable to me. Google Lens revealed the hieroglyphics mean they are a branch of a BBQ fish stall at Woodlands. I was later told they split from that stall several years ago.
According to the stall operator Hao Jie, his father and current stall owner, Chen Chin Hock learned the craft at Woodlands some 30 years ago. He then moved on to open a branch at the old Corporation Drive Market (formerly Jurong Market 1), which Taman Jurong Market & Food Centre replaced in 2005.
What I tried at B.B.Q Seafood
Our first order was Sambal Sotong (S$14), served sizzling hot right off the wok. Since we had all come with empty stomachs, we descended upon this with much haste.
What struck first was the sprightly sambal, immediate on the sweetness and less aggressive on the taste buds with its spice. My receptiveness to sotong tends to change on the fly, depending on whether I want to bother with the excessive chewing required.
Here, they were infused with the smoky scent from all that wok action and had enough give that the lingering sambal flavour hadn’t faded by the time I was done with each sotong.
What all 3 of us were looking forward to most was the Sambal Stingray (S$15). A sea of sambal obscured much of its surface and I was delighted that the sambal came in an equal proportion to the stingray. Since the sotong had done next to nothing for our appetite, this was looking to be a quick execution.
Peeling back to reveal the beautifully parallel strands of meat didn’t take much force as it was quite tender, yet each fibre possessed substantial chew to not completely break apart abruptly.
This was where the sambal made its re-debut, casting the pearly white flesh in a glowing red-orange hue. The healthy dressing of sambal made each otherwise mellow mouthful a pleasant, tangy, melt-in-your-mouth experience.
As with most dishes with stingray, they are elevated by the accompanying ensemble, and B.B.Q Seafood’s rendition makes a flawless pair.
Then came the BBQ Solefish (S$18), donning sambal like armor which didn’t help against 3 ravenous eaters.
The flesh came clean off, needing little coaxing to shear off the bone. Admittedly, the sambal‘s slow burn was getting to me so, beyond the layered textures characteristic of fish, I was finding it hard to differentiate between this and the stingray. One of my friends described it as light and refreshing. Still, the juicy meat of the solefish complemented the sambal’s stronger taste perceptibly well.
We generally scoff at ordering greens but Sambal Kang Kong (S$8) just hits different. B.B.Q Seafood’s kang kong is very different. My gripe with kang kong has always been its stiff, slimy texture but, for the most part, none of those qualities were present.
Whether as a result of the kang kong soaking in it or an actual addition of garlic, there was a noticeably earthy undertone. The kang kong‘s viscous surface was successfully masked by this more soupy sambal and wasn’t so raw that each bite became a battle.
We elevated each dish with a sprinkle of lime and some chinchalok, which allowed the stronger, zesty tones to perforate much of the existing sambal where contact was made. Along with the crunchy raw onions that topped each plate, the additional variance brought consistent, stimulating bites.
Worth a mention is the rice, which is really the glue that holds everything together. You won’t find anything exceptional here but so long as it doesn’t come undercooked, overcooked or cold, there’s no messing it up.
For a 3-man job, I say we cleaned house pretty good. Our post-meal round table determined the kang kong was just right, save for a little too much oil. The stingray was a contender for top dish as expected, but was outdone by the Solefish. As for the sotong, they were of perfect rigidity without being too taxing on the jaw.
The stall’s sambal, which emphasised less on savoury, took the sweetness a tad bit too far for their liking. I, on the other hand, quite enjoyed it and think it enhanced every dish.
Is this really the best BBQ stingray and fish Jurong has to offer? It could very well be, but that judgment will vary from person to person. Come try for yourself. If anything, you’ll get a hearty meal out of B.B.Q Seafood’s menu.
Expected damage: S$8 – S$18 per pax
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